When an election is around the corner people should take a deep breath and stop, look and listen and remember one important fact: that an election is around the corner.
That is to say, errr, these people are politicians. They want to be in power. The way they get into power is to get enough people to vote for them. The way they get enough people to vote for them is to promise things to people. The other way they get people to vote for them is to say what people want to hear.
When it comes to the abortion issue, those who are pro life should be very realistic. The Republicans are not going to repeal Roe vs. Wade. They’re not even going to try. They’ve done the homework. They’ve check the opinion polls and they have crafted a statement on abortion that pleases as many people as possible. “Yes, we’re pro-life!” they say. “Yes, we’re against abortion!” So the right wing social issues people are satisfied. “But we would allow abortion for cases of incest, rape and to save the mother’s life.” So those who don’t like abortion very much but are not extremists are also satisfied. When it actually comes down to it, the most we can hope for is that President Romney will bring back the ban on federal funding for abortion, perhaps appoint some pro life Supreme Court judges and bounce the issue back to the States where more abortion-limiting legislation has a chance.
The Democrats are also using abortion as an election game, only they are in favor of abortion, and they’re in favor of abortion for the same reason that the Republicans are against it: to win votes. By being in favor of abortion they hope to win the liberal vote, the feminist vote, and the youth vote. An Obama administration will continue to promote abortion–not because it believes in abortion and not only because it believes in women’s rights or freedom of choice or all that other stuff–but because they want to keep their particular constituency happy.
What response should a Catholic take? A Catholic should weigh up the two candidates and ask not so much which one will make the country exactly the way we want it to be, but which one will do less harm? Extremists like to talk about how an Obama administration will take away more of our freedoms and usher in a police state. I don’t, myself, see signs of this in any real way, but if an emergency does come up I am sure both a Republican and a Democratic administration would declare martial law. Totalitarian government in the USA? Military takeover of our country? If it’s going to happen it could happen just as easily under a right wing as a left wing regime.
What disturbs me about so many conservative Christians is that they confuse their doctrinal and moral religious conservatism with being members of the Republican party, and they believe their Christian beliefs and morals are best upheld by the Republicans. What they don’t see is that there are plenty of other Christians who really and truly do believe that their morals and beliefs are best upheld by the Democrats. Both sides find the other side incomprehensible.
The truly Catholic position is to see the good on both sides and the bad on both sides and to make a wise choice for the lesser of two evils. In their advice Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship the bishops make a very clear point:
As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support. Yet a candidate’s posi- tion on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.
To paraphrase: You can’t support a candidate just because he is in favor of something good if he is, at the same time, in favor of something intrinsically evil. The intrinsic evil he supports means you must not offer him support even if he is proposing other things which are good. This springs from the basic Catholic moral doctrine that you cannot commit (or allow) an intrinsic evil in order to accomplish a genuine good. In other words, you can’t do something wrong because you think it might have a good outcome.
Catholics are duty bound to consider the candidates seriously, to form their consciences seriously and then vote responsibly. I began by being fairly cynical of the politicians who will say anything to get elected. If more of the electorate were seriously informed with consciences that were intelligently formed we’d find that politicians would soon have to change their tune.
Instead of pandering to the masses they would have to appeal to an informed, intelligent and involved electorate, and that would give all of them pause.